Here’s a story I’ve been wanting to tell for a while — and it has a moral too, about how social media can help you get a job!
First, lest I send anyone in the wrong direction, let’s be clear on some of the ways that social media probably won’t get you a job:
- Creating a Twitter account and waiting for prospective employers to approach you
- Randomly sending your resume to hiring managers on LinkedIn
- Creating an online video resume (for the love of god, please don’t)
But here’s how social media really could help you get a job:
- Being a smart, thoughtful commenter on blogs in your field
- Possibly creating an awesome blog of your own and making sure people know about it
- Not neglecting the traditional pieces of a job search — writing a great cover letter, doing a strong interview, etc.
Now, here’s the story. Last month, while screening candidates for a job I was hiring for, I received a cover letter that easily stood out as the best I’d received for that position so far. And at the bottom of it was a name I recognized as a frequent commenter here.
We talked. The fit wasn’t quite right for that particular role, but I told her about another opening that was about to become available. We talked some more. And today was her first day in that job.
So, what went right here?
For starters, she was legitimately a strong candidate. No good employer is going to hire you on the basis of your social media presence if you’re not also a strong candidate offline too. So obviously, first and foremost she was qualified — but so were lots of other people applying for that same position.
Next, because of the connection she’d built with me through her comments here and some emails we’d exchanged as a result, I already knew her to be smart, thoughtful, curious, and driven. All good things that immediately moved her to the front of the pack. Not that other candidates couldn’t have been those things too, but through those things she’d done before we were ever talking about employment, she’d made herself something of a known quantity, in a way that’s a huge benefit when you’re applying for a job.
(Being a known quantity matters because when a hiring manager knows from direct experience that you’re reliable, competent, sane, etc., they’ll almost always prefer you over a similarly qualified candidate who is a stranger. That’s because you can never get to know someone as well in interviews as you can in other contexts; the candidate who interviews well can end up being flaky, disorganized, difficult to work with, and all sorts of other problematic things that someone can hide during the hiring process. But if you’ve been interacting with someone for a while, outside of the hiring process, you can be more confident about who you’re really hiring.)
Third, her blog provided further illustration of the fact that she was smart, a good writer, intellectually curious, and so forth. Having months’ worth of smart blog posts to look at can be pretty revealing when you want to get a better sense of someone.
And fourth, she didn’t rest on “knowing” me through the Internet. She put a ton of effort into writing a compelling cover letter and presenting herself as a highly qualified, engaging, and driven candidate.
So there’s our moral: No matter what industry you’re in, there almost surely are dozens of blogs and websites where people with an interest in your field gather to share information and ideas. Take part in the conversation there. (And maybe don’t be anonymous; you don’t need to use your real name, but it’ll help to have a regular handle you use rather than posting as Anonymous, so that people are able to connect your comments as all coming from one particular person.)
If you’re smart and thoughtful in your comments, you’ll build credibility as someone with an interest in and passion for the topic. At a minimum, you’ll probably connect with additional people who you can call on when you’re seeking professional advice. And it turns out, you might get a job offer out of it some day.